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Archive for the 'Small press comics' Category

31st Aug 2014

Review: Koré by Anna Fitzpatrick

Koré by Anna Fitzpatrick

I don’t do many reviews, particularly of Irish comics. The Irish comics scene is a tiny cottage industry and everybody knows everybody; a lot of the work is amateurish and unoriginal but it’s hard to be too harsh in your criticism because you want to encourage people and don’t want to hurt their feelings. Fortunately we have Leeann Hamilton who isn’t scared of letting rip when she thinks it’s necessary.

Sometimes, though, the work is far from amateurish or unoriginal, but is hard to review just because it’s bloody hard to describe. Such a work is Koré by Anna Fitzpatrick. I received my copy of the book shortly after the Kickstarter funding campaign closed in September 2013. It’s now just a kick in the arse short of September 2014, and I’m having a go at last.

Anna first came to my attention with her webcomic Between Worlds, a fantasy in a sort-of early modern European setting, notable for its sprawling plot, its emotional intensity and its beautiful digitally-painted colour artwork. Koré, other than the covers, is in black and white, and even the colour covers are sheathed in a slipcover printed in black and white on tracing paper, through which only the bright eyes of the pictured character can be clearly seen. The front cover and its slipcover are at the top of this review; the back cover and its slipcover are below.

Koré by Anna Fitzpatrick - back cover

Eyes are important, women’s bodies are important, and mythic symbolism is important. Koré is an alternative name for the ancient Greek underworld goddess Persephone, and means “maiden” or “daughter”. The snakes suggest the gorgon Medusa, but their juxtaposition on the back cover with medical tubes reminds us that the snake is also a symbol of healing.

Why am I talking about symbols, and things being “important”, rather than telling you what the book’s about? Well, I’m attempting to do both, but it’s not easy. Koré is told almost entirely in images, no words other than the title and a series of titles applied to the characters, or perhaps the same character in different lives, at the end, and while there’s a sequence and a narrative I’m not sure it can really be considered as a story. Will Eisner coined the term “sequential art” many years ago, and that’s what this is. Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics defined comics as “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the reader.The sequence of images in Koré certainly produces an aesthetic response, but it’s an impressionistic one that depends on the reader’s response to images, in symbolic as well as narrative terms.

Double page spread from Koré by Anna Fitzpatrick

The impression it creates in me is a strong sense of womanhood, in particular the physicality of womanhood, and womanhood experienced as something assumed, or felt as imposed, not entirely willingly or happily. The figures are drawn androgynously, broad-shouldered, small-breasted and square-jawed, but the persistence of blood as well as vulval and uterine symbols and the anguish and fear of the character(s) is undeniable. The eyeballs in the blood are more difficult to interpret, except perhaps by reference to the goddess Koré as “The All Seeing”, or by how women are judged by how they look creating a paranoid feeling of being under constant observation and scrutiny, but that seems too rational an explanation to be entirely satisfying. I wonder how much of Koré‘s symbolism was determined rationally and how much was a series of subconscious decisions.

Fitzpatrick writes on her Kickstarter page aboutfinding a path through depression in comic form”, and while I’ve had my own struggles with depression I experienced it in male terms, Anna experienced it in female terms, so for me there’s a sense of recognition, but also a gulf in understanding. I’m a man, and I don’t have any sisters, and an awful lot of the experience of growing up female is lost on me, but growing up female seems to me to be the overarching theme of the book.

Koré is a book that demands your attention, requires interpretation, and gives the reader access to a mind not their own (whether or not that other mind is entirely comprehensible), which to me is the highest purpose of art of any sort, and makes Fitzpatrick perhaps the most interesting and challenging artist Irish comics have yet given us. Koré‘s impressionistic, symbolic approach makes an interesting contrast to the work of another challenging Irish artist, John Robbins, which is framed in a more masculine way by its unflinching concrete specificity. But that’s another review that may or may not actually get written.

Koré is available from Anna’s Etsy store, for US$16.50, which currently works out at UK£10.21, or €12.89, a snip for such a handsome 74-page graphic novel.

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02nd Oct 2013

Why there’s no new comic this week

Comic Capers with Davy Francis and Chums

It’s still just about Wednesday, but I’m not going to make my deadline. I know my rate of production has slowed dramatically this year, but I don’t seem to be able to do anything about it. This week, though, there’s a good reason.

On Sunday, as part of Belfast’s Belly Laughs Comedy Festival, I’m involved in organising Comic Capers with Davy Francis and Chums, a celebration of comics and cartooning featuring one of Belfast’s not-sung-enough heroes, who sold his first cartoon 40 years ago this year (he was eleven, it was to the East Antrim Times, and he was paid 50p). Since then his loopy dip-pen line has graced titles as varied as the Belfast People’s Comic, “Screw the Bap and Head the Ball” in the Shankill Bulletin, Ximoc, Cicerman, Monster Fun, Oink!, Holy Cross, Seven Deadly Sins, Jim the Elephant, Sancho and Thunderbags. Last week he and I drew caricatures at a charity event, and it’s always a pleasure to watch him draw.

So, to get back to the point, a retrospective of Davy’s career will be the centrepiece of an afternoon event on Sunday 6 October, in the Black Box on Hill Street, from 2pm to 6pm. We’ll also be creating a giant improvised comic strip and holding a workshop for kids, and I’ll be speaking about some early comic strips from the Belfast Telegraph in the 1920s, and introducing you to a forgotten Belfast cartoonist. Other illustrious guests include cartoonists Ian Knox (Whizzer and Chips, Irish News, BBC NI’s Hearts and Minds), Alan Ryan (Faraday the Blob, The Beano), Ann Harrison (Bunsen Bunnies), Brian John Spencer (Slugger O’Toole, Huffington Post) and Patrick Sanders (SCEPTrE, Replay Theatre Company), and standup comics Peter E Davidson and Lorcan McGrane.

Promises to be a fantastic occasion and I hope to see lots of you there. But does mean I’ve had less mental energy to devote to other things, like this week’s Cattle Raid of Cooley.

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04th Aug 2012

One week to Dublin Zine Fair, launch of The Cattle Raid of Cooley issue 6

Dublin Zine Fair 2012

Next weekend I’ll be at the Dublin Zine Fair, a two-day event organised by Sarah Bracken of Baby Beef Art Press. I’m printing frantically and should have the first copies print edition of The Cattle Raid of Cooley issue 6 for sale!

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31st May 2012

Romantic Mayhem in the Comics Journal!

Rob Clough has written a Survey of International Small Press Comics on the Comics Journal website, and one of the comics he reviews is Romantic Mayhem, the Irish anthology I did a strip for recently. Not only is it the most prestigious organ to review anything I’ve been involved with, it’s a pretty glowing review as well, and describes my effort as “a spectacular Alex Toth approximation” (I was aiming for something along the lines of Jesús Redondo or Santiago Hernández, but if you’re going to compare me to Alex Toth I reserve the right to be seriously chuffed.

The article also covers comics from Germany, Poland, Latvia (with contributions from a cosmopolitan gang of international artists), Holland, Turkey and Britain – lots of interesting artists to learn about.

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24th Jan 2012

The Invisible Artist

The Invisible Artist, a documentary film made by Andy Luke and Carl Boyle for NVTV on the history of comics in Belfast, which I appeared in and helped out on the research for last year, is now online. As well as Andy and myself, there are contributions from Davy Francis, PJ Holden, Stephen Downey, John Farrelly, John Killen of the Linenhall Library, and many others. Go watch, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

The Invisible Artist from Northern Visions/NvTv on Vimeo.

 

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14th Apr 2010

Black Books, 18 April

This Sunday is Black Books day at the Black Box on Hill Street, Belfast, and The Black Panel, aka Andy Luke and myself, will once again be selling a selection of comics by the finest writers and artists in Ireland, north and south. We have some new additions to our stock – books by Bridgeen Gillespie, Rob Curley and Gerry Hunt. Click here to find out more!

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20th Mar 2010

Black Books tommorrow

The Black Panel, aka Andy Luke and myself, will be selling our selection of small press comics by Irish artists (north and south) at the Black Books book fair thing at the Black Box tomorrow – and for the first time, we have books by Archie Templar!

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05th Mar 2010

The Black Panel

Black Market March 2010

This Sunday (7 March) is Black Market day at the Black Box, and they now have a Facebook Group. The Black Panel (me and Andy and a selection of small press comics by Irish artists) will be there as usual. We’ve had a restock from Phil Barrett, one of our best sellers, including more copies of the sold out Black Shapes and the new-to-us Matter Summer Special of 2006. Lots of fine work by lots of fine artists from all over Ireland, north and south, for your delectation. Your attendance is hereby requested.

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19th Feb 2010

Black Books this Sunday

For my readers in and around Belfast, don’t forget the Black Panel, Andy’s and my stall selling Irish-produced small press comics, will be at the Black Books book fair this Sunday, at the Black Box on Hill Street in the Cathedral Quarter. Here’s Andy’s write-up of the last one on Alltern-8, and a photo of me behind the stall I’ve stolen from said write-up, showing some of the variety of marvellous comics we have on sale.

Black Panel

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05th Feb 2010

Black Market this weekend

Andy and I will once again be running the Black Panel small press comics stall at the Black Box, Hill Street, Belfast (it’s in the Cathedral Quarter – here’s the Google map) on Sunday. As well as our own, we’ll have comics by Patrick Lynch, Philip Barrett, Deirdre de Barra, Hilary Lawler and the rest of the Longstone Comics crowd, the Berserker Comics boys, Stephen Downey, John Robbins, Gar Shanley and Cathal Duggan, Alan Nolan, Deirdre Ruane, Tommie Kelly, Edel Ryder and Gareth Hanrahan, Davy Francis, Aidan Courtney and friends as Gaeilge, Lee Grace and his band of illustrators and graphic designers, and, new to the Black Panel this month, Malachy Coney!  With variety like that there’ll be something to appeal to just about anybody. Hopefully see yez all there then.

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